Hot August Night
This is the ultimate Neil Diamond record. Not necessarily the best -- he's at his most appealing crafting in the studio -- but certainly the ultimate, capturing all the kitsch and glitz of Neil Diamond, the showman. And that also means that it's not just loaded with flair, but with filler, songs like "Porcupine Pie," "Soggy Pretzels," and "And the Grass Won't Pay No Mind" -- attempts to write grand, sweeping epics that collapse under their own weight. Still, that's part of the charm of Diamond and while it can sound unbearable on studio albums, it makes some sense here, surrounded by his pomp and circumstance. That spectacle is the great thing about the record, since it inflates not just his great songs, it gives the weaker moments character. And while this does wind up being a little much -- 21 songs, 24 on the 2000 reissue -- it nevertheless is the one record for casual Neil fans, after the hits collections, since this shows Diamond the icon in full glory.